Archive for the 'About the blog' Category

Announcing Major Changes to the Blog


I have exciting news for the very few readers of this blog.

The site, which will celebrate its ninth anniversary this October, is getting a huge makeover that will make it easier for all readers to navigate through the contents.

Many of the benefits are associated with splitting the Japanese content from the English content that enables English-only readers to avoid the clutter created by incomprehensible Japanese characters.

But there is much more.

URL

The first big announcement is the URL change.

The blog, which has been hosted on wordpress.com from its inception, has moved to a new, personal domain, www.joesas.net.

Now that the URL address is simpler and easier to remember, I’m hoping that all of you will remember to visit my blog more often than once a year.

Look and Feel

The site’s look and feel has gone through a complete remake.

Whereas the goal of the old site was simplicity, the new site seeks to combine more color, accessibility and readability.

The update is accompanied with various new features to encourage engagement, like easier sharing of posts on social media and ratings of posts.

Although it’s late in coming, a Related Posts feature has also been added.  This feature should provide a fairly reliable recommendation of posts in light of my clean-up of tags and categories.

Dual Language Support

As many of you no doubt noticed, the number of posts in Japanese on this blog has been increasing lately. This has made it cumbersome for English readers to navigate through Japanese content to get to the English material.

In conjunction with the renewal of the site, I have split the Japanese content from the English.  This means that if you can only read English, you no longer have to scroll through weird and incomprehensible characters.

For those who are able to read Japanese, the great news is that English and Japanese versions of the sites are linked; you will be able to easily access the Japanese version of the post, if there is one, with a click of a button.

It’s worth adding tha I have a general policy of writing posts in either English or Japanese, but not both.  Thus, to the extent that there are versions in two languages, each is not a translation of the other, even if they are linked.  Rather, it is likely that I wrote an English version, then revisited the same topic while writing in Japanese.  If you understand the nuances of both languages, I think you’ll enjoy reading and comparing how I wrote anew in two languages on the same idea.

Incidentally, I’ve added Google Translate support throughout the site for those who don’t understand Japanese but who are still interested in trying to comprehend the Japanese posts.   Be forewarned, though: the machine translation produces quality that is so bad even I had trouble recognizing some of the original posts.  The Google Translate feature may not help you understand what I’m saying in Japanese, but it should serve as a good reminder that, no matter how much machines advance, there will always be a role left for humans.

All existing content and subscriptions have been ported over, and going forward, all posts and notifications will come from the new site.

I hope you enjoy the new site and the look and feel.

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ブログの一新と日本語版の立ち上げ


数少ない読者の皆様に喜ばしいお知らせがあります。

この度、ブログを一新しました。

以下にて説明するとおり、これはサイトを全体的に変更するだけでなく、日本人読者の体験を大幅に改善することを目的とした、大きな更新です。

【URLの変更】

当初からwordpress.comでホストされていたこのブログですが、この度独自のドメインであるwww.joesas.netに移行しました。

簡潔で簡単。URLアドレスが覚えやすくなったことで、皆様からのアクセスが増えることを期待しています。

【日本語版の立ち上げ】

皆様にとって最も重要な改善点になると思われるのは、ブログに日本語サポートが追加されたことです。

今までこのブログでは、英語のサイトに日本語の投稿を掲載するという形式を取っていました。コメントや購読、検索やカテゴリーに関する案内が全て英語という環境だったので、日本人の読者にとってはとても使い勝手が悪いサイトだったと思います。

この度の一新においては、サイトの日本語版を立ち上げることにより、言語に関連する諸問題をいっぺんに解消します。

まず最初に、ブログに日本語の名前を付けました。和文タイトルは「ボクに言わせてみれば ~ ジョー、無駄に語る」。英語のタイトル「The World According to Joe ~ Never Before Has One With So Little to Say Said So Much to So Few」にあるどうでもよさのニュアンスを日本語のタイトルにも残しました。

日本語版においては、環境が基本的に全て日本語となっています。以前は英語が分からない、英語はつらい、という理由からブログを敬遠していた方々には、これを機会にブログ全体を探検してみていただければと思います。いつもインターネットを閲覧されている際の言語設定が日本語であれば、自動的にブログも日本語版に飛ぶようになっています。

【和文投稿の分離】

サイトの日本語版の立ち上げに伴い、今までは混合していた日本語と英語の投稿を日本語版・英語版のサイトに分離しました。

これにより、日本語版には和文の投稿しか表示されないようになりましたので、英語が苦手な方は英語を目にせずともこのブログを楽しんでいただけるようになりました。

もっとも、サイトの日本語版と英語版は連携しています。したがって、投稿の英文が存在する場合、和文のページから「English」とあるリンクをアクセスしていただくだけで英文も閲覧できます。また、英文がある投稿とない投稿を容易に区別できるよう、日本語版しかない投稿には冒頭に「(日本語のみ)」と記載しています。

なお、このブログでは原則として、日本語・英語のどちらかのみで投稿するという形式を取っていますので、ほとんどの和文投稿には関連する英文がありません。ただ、英語版が存在する場合は、大抵、以前英文投稿で取り上げたトピックについて改めて日本語で書き直した、という経緯があります。したがって、英文は和文の「翻訳」ではなく、双方ともがオリジナルです。英語も堪能な方には、和文と英文を読み比べていただくのも面白いかと思います。

【その他機能の追加】

日本語対応の他にも、フェイスブック等のソーシャルメディアとの連携や投稿の評価をしやすくしたり、関連する投稿を提案するなどの機能を多数追加しました。是非お試しください。

【今後の予定】

「このブログについて」や「管理人について」等のページは引き続き英文しかなく、日本語サポートもまだまだ改善の余地があるので、今後も日本語コンテンツの充実に力を入れていきたいと考えています。

また、このブログについては、この度の一新よりさらに大きなプロジェクトを計画しています。ぜひご期待ください!

今後もよろしくお願いします。

No, I’m Not Changing the Title of This Blog


As my friends can probably tell from my desperate pleas to read new posts every other Monday on Facebook, this blog does not get a lot of readers. I concede that the daily readership averages below one, and recently, the hits often don’t reach double digits even on the Mondays that I put up a new post and the days immediately thereafter.

Apparently, in this age of instant gratification and Twitter, my 800 or so word pontification on anything from coins to taxis in Japan are too long. The purportedly excessive length of the posts have been a complaint by many, but recently, a friend took this a step further and griped that the length of the title of this blog, at a mere five words, is too long.  He then added that the two tag lines, one of which is in Latin, were his case in point.

This post is in response to his suggestion that I should change the title (and the tagline(s)) if I want more readers.

Here’s my non-lengthy reply:  No.

The title of this blog has a deep and rich history that dates back to days well before the blog itself (which, by the way, is closing in on a five year anniversary). In high school, I wrote a column for the school paper whose range of topics was even more random than this blog.  If I recall, I was called to the job because the editor needed a columnist and I agreed to do the job so long as I could choose the title of the column.  Since I was going to write about “my me my, what I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see,” as Tobey Keith so rythematically put it in his catchy “I Wanna Talk About Me,” the phrase “The World According to Joe” seemed like the perfect fit.  The editor didn’t disagree, and he added more color to the column by adding a logo of a man standing on top of the world.

I actually tried the short title experiment in college and it was a rather resounding dud.  I wrote a column for a section of the paper called “Marketplace,” which was like being an orphan child in a family with an overachiever (the main editorials) and the popular (the sports) as older siblings.  No one at the paper cared to fight me for the column, so I had the distinction of being a college newspaper columnist for four years.  

If not too many people wanted my job, even fewer people cared to read my pieces.  People complained that the subject matter I covered were uninteresting or my thoughts and musings were too unsophisticated, or sometimes both, but I’d always suspected the title “Strictly Business” shared a lot of the blame.  The bland title actually summarized the column rather well, but I’d rather trick the people into reading my writing with a catchy title  than turn people away with a boring one.  Otherwise, what’s the point of being published?

Just because I refuse to listen to one friend doesn’t mean I ignore all friends.  I simply accept good suggestions.  A year or so after I started this blog, a friend sent a link to one of those discouraging quotes, which he undoubtedly thought of after reading a couple of my posts.  Having seen where he was coming from, I adopted the phrase as the new tagline.  The friend who complained about the length of the five word title called the fourteen word tagline as “verbose,” but I find the English tag line as a witty description of the past, current and perpetual state of the World According to Joe: so much to say on so little substance, and so few to listen.

A year or so ago, I added the Latin tagline “Si Tacuisses, Philosophus Mansisses.”  I felt the need to add a certain level of intellectual credence to the blog even though it has none.  Latin has an academic feel, even if I cannot read my Boston College diploma that is written in Latin. The new, Latin tagline is literally translated as “If you had been silent, you would have remained a philosopher,” or more humorously, “If you had kept your mouth shut, people would have thought you were clever.”  It certainly seemed like a witty, and non-verbose, translation of the English tagline that was worth adding to the  header of the blog.

And so, for that one person who cannot get past the length of the title of my blog, my message is to get over it, or at least be productive and propose an alternative.  I’m all open to suggestions, so long as it highlights what this blog is all about: me, myself and my ego.  

But whatever you do, please, please, please don’t let the lengthy title of the blog deter you from reading my blog.

What I Learned About Writing


I’ll never forget the professor in my Legal Writing class in my first year of law school who said that English majors struggle mightily in the class.  It was a moment I realized that lawyers are one of the worst writers out of professionals whose job primarily revolves around writing.  Lawyers use “effect” as a verb, “draft” letters instead of “write” them, love to speak about themselves in the third person, think “heretofor” (correctly without an “e”) is an acceptable part of normal writing and begin correspondences with a phrase like “Reference is hereby made to.”   If the legal profession wants to improve its image among the general public, a good place to begin would be to write like a normal person.

Legal writing is not really writing.  It’s putting words on paper that has a special meaning to a very limited number of people.  It lacks any interest in communication or creativity and it’s rather quite a bore.

This blog is where I escape the boredom.  I tell stories, convey thoughts and express opinions without being limited by convention or practice.  I’ll never forget this one time a partner asked me to write a piece to share a learning experience he had with a banker who called with a question.  Upon reading what I prepared, he commented, “I was hoping for something more like a story.”  I cracked a smile, then wanted to smack him.  Story is what I tell in this blog, where I can also experiment with different styles like numbered lists to parallel structures, traditional essays to fictional stories.  It’s not what I could or would write at work.

It’s said that reading makes you a better writer, but I think you can’t become a better writer unless you love to write and actually pursue that love frequently.  I’m neither articulate nor blessed with a large vocabulary so my skills as a writer is rather handicapped, but I’ve learned three very important lessons that I think have improved my writing.

The first is to have a thesis.  We’re taught to do this from our days in grammar school, but for the longest time, I didn’t know what it meant beyond having a topic sentence.  Thesis is more than just a sentence or a paragraph that summarizes what you are trying to convey, yet it’s not so amorphous as to be simply a theme.  A thesis is a thought or an idea that binds the entire writing together, but the important element is to have a single and concrete thesis to which every sentence or a paragraph relates.  In an 800 page essay, such as the one I write most frequently, this is a relatively simple task: I can be walking down a street, think of a topic to write about and recall couple good stories to share about it.  In much longer pieces, this task is more difficult.  When I wrote my senior thesis, for example, I didn’t know what my thesis was until it was near completion–part of the reason why the work was somewhat wanting.  Even a good fiction has a thesis, a message that accompanies a good story telling.  This is a skill I’m long away from mastering.

The other two lessons are corollary to the point about the thesis.  One is that not every good idea makes good writing.  I have more than 20 drafts of blog posts that I have not finished, and that I likely never will.  Those are ideas that seemed good in thought but didn’t develop when I tried putting them down in words.  When these bad writing ideas are forced into publication, you end up with a piece that you truly detest.  Our thoughts are, by their nature, random and disorganized and only by writing do you realize they can’t come together.  In essence, they are just thoughts and not a thesis.

The final lesson, to be concise, is the one I was forced to learn while I wrote a weekly business column for the Boston College paper.  In the first three years, the column was limited to 550 words, which turns out to be not much.  (This piece is around 660 words at this juncture).  The first draft of every column consistently went around 100 words over and I would spend the next hour or so trimming it to make the piece fit.  It was an exercise I initially resented, then the one I’d come to appreciate.  Just as some thoughts don’t develop into a thesis, not all thoughts relate to a thesis.  My writing had a tendency to ramble, but the 550 word limit really compelled me to get straight to the point.  The column eventually expanded to 650 words and I don’t have a word limit in this blog per se, but I’ve always kept that lesson in mind–I hope for the better.

Podcast Joins the Blog


Perhaps this was inevitable.  The World According to Joe now includes podcasts.  The idea is to alternate a blog post and a podcast every other week.

Hosted by my high school buddy Jason, the podcast will cover the same topics as this blog–and more!  In the podcast, I’ve removed my restrictions on politics, so you can hear me mock, bash and ridicule liberalism and the Democrat Party in a way you won’t see me do in writing.  And because I’m just talking with Jay and letting the conversation go wherever he takes it, the odds are I will be much more indiscreet in the podcast than in the blog.  My guess is the indiscretion will be the most attractive feature.

For the inaugural podcast, Jason and I chat about the stock market, investing, politics, the movie Greenzone, my rebellion and handgun story, the Yankees, the Patriots and the NFL Draft, all in less than 18 minutes.

In connection with the addition of the podcast, bunch of minor but important features were added to the blog.  You can now receive e-mail notices whenever I update my blog or subscribe to RSS readers.  Both of these are now available on the top right.

The right column has been cleaned up a bit, with the archives now in pull-down menu and Top Posts replaced with Top Rated to reflect the new ratings system that no one seems to be utilizing.  I hope this encourages people to vote!

I’m also now automatically publicizing this blog on Tweeter, Facebook and Yahoo!, not that I haven’t been annoying enough with my posts on Facebook.

Hope you’re as excited about these new additions and improvements as I am!

A Thirteen Month Anniversary


Today, this blog turns 13 months old.  I would have celebrated the one year anniversary if only I had remembered to celebrate it.  That I’d forgotten is actually fitting for this rather irrelevant blog.

In 13 months, I have written 76 posts, averaging nearly 6 posts a month.  While the pace has slowed, I’ve tried to maintain the pace of at least one piece every two weeks.  I’m pleased that I’ve succeeded in that effort even as I had little time due to my work.  The truth is, I think the slower pace has improved the blog–not necessarily because my posts are better quality, but because I’m avoiding saturation.  There is such a thing as saturation no matter how good something is.  I ain’t sayin’ my blog is good, but it’s not going to get any better by increasing the frequency of my posts.

As an example of what I mean, when I have too many pieces to post, I end up posting crap like this piece on the NFL overtime system.  I drafted this junk on a legal pad at an airport on my way to some business trip.  After I typed it up, I knew it wasn’t really good so I delayed posting it as I came up with better ideas.  Eventually, I got busier, felt the need to post something, so this piece was unceremoniously dumped à la bad flicks premiering in August.  More recently, I’ve become selective in the pieces I’m posting.  I currently have 18 posts draft form of one stage or another, some of which will never be read by a single reader.  I’m understanding what Steve Jobs meant when he said he’s as proud of products Apple didn’t release as those it has.

I obviously have my share of favorite posts.  I think the piece in which I reveal my savagery by mocking Steinbeck is a humorous piece executed well.  I like the narcisstic, irrelevant 662 word post on my name because it’s like a perfect representation of what this blog is about.  I like ripping on the NY TImes in general, but this piece on their movie critics is particularly memorable because a colleague at work had very nice things to say about it.  I enjoyed writing the piece on how I meticulously planned to get rejected by every law school that I applied to, and apparently readers liked reading it: it received the most feedback with 20 commentsl.  I think I whined about not being published (and apparently not publishable) in a readable way.  Politics and sports didn’t make the list because either I don’t care or my readers don’t care, but I think my best political pieces are the emotional one dedicated to Bush when he left office and the logical one legally defending California’s Proposition 8.

As a genera observation, I’m pleased with the mix of categories of my posts.  I committed to no politics and to a large extent, I’ve succeeded.  For a person who studied politics, lives for elections and mocks Democrats 24/7/365, 14 political posts in 13 months shows quite a restraint.  Granted it’s not a restraint I had shown while writing a business column in college–one political post in 87 weeks–but in those four years, I had a topic I was committed to.  Here, I write what I think.  Since I’m always thinking liberalism is idiotic, it’s remarkable I’ve managed to come up with so many irrelevant topics unrelated to politics.  It only goes to show how frighteningly irrelevant I am.

I said I’d write fiction, and while 3 posts in a year isn’t many, I feel like I’ve gotten off to a good start.  I have more sections I’ve written, but I’m not ready to post them yet.  Although slow, I’m not upset with the progress.  I feel like I’m being thoughtful about what I’m writing and where I’m going since I can’t really go back and “fix” it once I post a section.  Posting fiction here forces  me to carefully contemplate each step of the way, but also compels me to keep on moving forward.  That was always my problem with writing fiction; I always kept on going back.  No one really gives a crap about my fiction, but since I do, I really don’t care that you don’t care.

I’m not sure I have the same indifferent attitude about my sports posts.  My posts on sports get a response that’s very similar to my posts on politics–except in the opposite way.  So whereas my readership spikes when I share my love of Bush or questions Obama’s new stature as a Nobel laureate, I get a deafening silence when I talk about David Shinske or Chris Crane.  One person cares–and he cares enough to leave a comment (thank you, Chris)–but he’s clearly it.  Not really feeling the BC love, even though a majority of the readers probably share my alma mater.

Just like my sports posts don’t get any attention, I’m pretty sure no one noticed that the blog’s layout changed a while back–and I think for the better.   When I made the change to the background template several months ago, I thought of  doing a more dramatic change, but that’s the thing about personal taste: you really like certain types.  What I ended up settling on pretty much had the same look as the one I had originally.  Change is good, so long as it doesn’t change anything–just like how Henry Ford accepted any color in his line of cars so long as it was black.

You know what needed changing that was changed?  The annoying titles to each post that began with “On…”  It was one of those idiotic ideas I came up with while writing a column in high school.  I carried over the dumb idea regarding titles of every post because I carried over the title of the column to this blog.  I think back then, I wanted a way to have a consistent theme that ran through every column.   Beginning the title of every column “On” was as good as I could get–and as idiotic.  This unattractive feature was quickly dropped like a bad habit, but the spirit has continued with the substance of the posts that continue to be idiotic.

To accurately reflect the idiocy and irrelevance of this blog, a buddy I met while in law school, who is a college student, contributed a tag line.  (Incidentally, the fact that I still know a college student attending  Boston College should give you a pretty good idea of what my life in law school was like).  “Never Before Has One With So Little To Say Said So Much To So Few,” the blog now sells itself.  I personally liked what I had come up with–“Those who has the least to say, speaks the most”–but Joseph’s was much more fitting and humorous.

I owe several people thanks.

Chris S. deserves a recognition for posting the most number of comments, by far (although recently, he’s become a little more AWOL).  He cares.

Vijay gets booed for leaving his only comment when I talked politics/law.   He doesn’t get my blog.

Jon gets a special prize because he’s interested in posts about me and couldn’t care less about my politics.    He gets it.

Ciriaco gets a dishonorable mention because he never leaves a comment, hardly reads my blog but bitches that I need to write more politics.  He’s evil.

Milky gets a thumb’s up because she encouraged me to start a blog, yet oddly has never visited for all I know.  She’s mysterious.

Joseph gets a wink because he pretends to care by leaving a comment.  He’s cool.

Chris R. gets a mixed review because he often leaves a comment, but it’s always political.  He should knock it off.

And I get a standing ovation because I started this blog and has stayed with it.  I love my blog.

I hope you enjoyed visiting this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it.  I tried to thank all of you by making sure all comments were not left unanswered.

All in all, if I were to grade this blog, I would give it a strong, non-grade-inflated B, just short of a  B+.

How would you rate my blog on this monumentous 13th month anniversary?

Why I Don’t Talk Politics


A couple weeks ago, my high school buddies came over to my apartment, one of them kindly pointed out that he can see my office from my window, then tried to persuade me for hours on end that I should write about politics in my blog.  His point, as I understood it, was that no one cares about what I have to say about life and myself.  Really, the only thing people care about in regards to me is my politics.  Why deny the people what they want?  After all, the first rule of mass media, as James Bond so lethally put it (5:19 into the clip), is to give the people what they want.

I feel compelled to respond.

Sure my last post was quasi-political, but I have a general no-politics policy in this blog, not because I want to restrain myself, but because I want to write about something that’s worthwhile.  I spent four politically passionate years in high school indifference, four years in college running off the right cliff when herds of people flocked to the left (including, yes, my formerly indifferent high school buddies) and three years in law school defending myself against venomous attacks.  The intellectual exercise was fun in college and necessary in law school, but I no longer see the point in either trying to persuade or necessity in defending.

Why bother?

It doesn’t take a St. Paul-like epiphany for my acquaintances to learn that I belong to a particular brand of conservatism called “nutty” and the only reason most of you, my friends, would want to read any political blog of mine is the same reason why my mom watches the incurably dumb Keith Olbermann.

You want me to write about why America could never accept universal healthcare–and why it shouldn’t–so you can shake your head in my lack of compassion.  You want me to write about how the Constitution doesn’t say a lick about “separation of church and state” so you can accuse me of unjustly imposing my religious views on you.  You want me to write about how I don’t for a second believe there’s a right to same sex marriage so you can lecture me about the past sins of conservatism like segregation.  You want me to defend George W. Bush, whom I deeply respect, so you can curse me out for worshipping the devil.

You basically want me to write politics so you can feel enraged without guilt and self-rightous without hubris.

No thanks.

There’s nothing funny about political debates.  It could be but it never is because people lack a sense of humor.  I long ago learned to have a healthy dose of humor in my conservatism or lest I’d never stay afloat in the ocean of cluelessness called the academia.  But those who debate politics, conservatives and liberals alike, take their politics and themselves far too seriously.  The fact is, neither the people nor their ideas are that important or novel–if they were, they should be and would be changing the world.  Whatever politics I have to share in this blog has been rehashed somewhere else, likely in the “Comment” section after an article written by a moron like Paul Krugmann.  Quite frankly, I don’t care to have this blog turned into an inconclusive exchange of political dialogue like this one.

The motive behind my no-politics policy is really simple:  why carry on the charade?  Nothing is going to change the fact that most of you think that I’m an idiot.  The feeling is actually quite mutual.  In all of the years that I have known you, in different times, in different settings, in different ways that we exchanged thoughts, did you once think that my ideas were worth listening to because I could be right?  I take no offense in that you didn’t, just as I hope you take no offense in that I didn’t when you shard your thoughts.  The odds are that we exchanged thoughts precisely because of each other’s convictions, but the time for meaningless exchange of ideas has passed.  That was for college when I had the time and inclination.  Now I have neither.  I don’t see why we shouldn’t simply agree to disagree and move on to the more fun and joyous.  Like me and my life.


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